weightlifting for (distance) skating

lifting weights has a lot of health benefits, especially for ‘old’ guys like me, haha, i turned 40 this year. yeah! combined with yoga, weightlifting is an important asset in increasing athletic performance. one might think just skating longer and longer is enough to train for long distance skating, but weightlifting for skating is all about improving muscle strength and stamina, as well as overall mental and physical condition. this is good, and its something i dont get from just skating.

my goal is not to be big and buff, but to be physically able for riding fast downhill, pushing long uphills, schlepping a 12kg pack and maybe gripping a sail, or fighting a nasty headwind. developing core strength, solid upper body muscles and flexibility, powerful calf and thigh muscles, a body toned and primed with energy, this will make any of us stronger skaters.

i train with weights once or twice a week, sometimes every fourth day, keeping a semi-regular program of free-weight lifting, dumbbells and barbell. i do the same exercises again and again, when i get bored, i’ll throw in a few different ones, but for the most part its a regular plan. i keep a written record of my lifting, so i can see how i progress, and see where i need to . it works for me, and after training intensively, then relaxing a bit (tapering off), when i go to do the deed, if its skating or bodysurfing or swimming, it comes with greater ease and i can do it for longer.

being a skinny kid it was never easy for me to go to a gym. i still get this impression of sweaty muscle-hunk dens and stylish juicebar in spandex scenes, neither of which appeal to me, when i think of gym. so i train at home, with free weights on a simple rack, interchanging dumbbell and barbell plates.

in my workouts, i do core strength exercises, squats and dead lifts, for the main muscles which support and center the body, then compound exercises like lunges, bench press, and various rows. each of these exercises builds a group of muscles. then i do muscle-specific exercises, working from the biggest muscles to the smallest.

i split my workouts so i do one group of core exercises ex. legs, chest and neck, then alternate the next workout, core exercises and back and arms. i am not into sporting big chunky biceps, so only occasionally i throw in some dumbbell alternating curls, but i work my calves almost every session, because these are stringy, hard clusters of muscle, which get useed every day, all day, so they need a lot of work to get them to grow and strengthen.

i read the old bible by arnold schwarzennegger, and i fond some sites online which have little muscle maps and descriptions of exercises. so many resources can give instructions and pointers for each exercise, with different styles and techniques, but i hold to the standard: lifting less weight with good clean form is better than sloppy lifting of heavier weights. 8 to 12 repetitions, three sets of each exercise, when i can do 12, i add 10% or so weight and start again with 8 repetitions the next time around. 45 minutes to an hour in total, with a warmup yoga (surya namaskar is good) and cool-down session. off days i do yoga, about 35 minutes, a combination of iyengar, hatha, raja and kundalini yoga.

immediately following a workout i drink a whey shake: a liter of oj and water mix, into which i put 35-50g of whey protein isolate (not concentrate) and 60-100g dextrose-maltodextrin carbohydrate mix. i weigh about 74kg. i drink half of that in 15 minutes, and the rest diluted with more water over the next hour. if i did a particularly hard workout, i will add some extra carbohydrate powder. on workout days, in the night before sleep, i will have a whey shake with 20g of whey and about 20g of casein powder, and 40g of carbohydrates. i always have a hard time eating enough, so i am not worried about surplus carbs, especially when i am being active. this protein shake isnt to build bulk, but to maintain muscle-building elements in my body.

my skate training is basically as follows: i will do a free-weight workout one day, then rest a day, the third day i go for a long skate, in between days, a couple of short fast skates, then weightlifting again when i feel up to it. sometimes thats every fourth day lifting weights. a couple of weeks before i plan to skate longer, i’ll stop with the weightlifting, and skate around as i like but rest up, mostly.

some important tips: i dont skate hard directly after a workout, that’s a sensitive time when the muscles are recuperating, and are prone to injury. wait at least 4 to ten hours after a workout before skating hard or long. i dont lift weights directly after skating, either. i just stressed my muscles out on the road, its no time to stress them more. building strength and stamina takes time, it doesnt do to skate then lift every other day, the body needs time to build that muscle stronger. so maximum every fourth day with the weights, and a rest day or two in between, that’s what works for me.

i am working on a little video to demonstrate this whole power play, and from that you all can see, i am not lifting mega heavy weights, i’m not built, but i push myself to the limits of what i can do each time. in bodybuilding terms, i dont ‘train to failure’, but almost. my point is that weightlifting is essential stuff for any serious athletics, and it can help prevent injury out on the road. light-hearted as it may seem, as relaxed a pace of 50km per day might be, skating distance in the himalayas is heavy duty, and i train hard for that.

training in hong kong

i spent the winter months working on a film job in hong kong. most every day i pushed pushed up massive hills, left right, left right, left right. and most every day i was raging down those steep hills, getting more comfortable at speed, real speed for me is still around 50kmh. along with the hills there was a lot of pushing on the flat, through the megacity. great skating!

here is a video of the ride home, music is plasticman

skate [to] the glacier 2012

i’m going on another skate trek in yunnan, southwest china, may 2012. this time it will be a 1000km skate, about a month on the road, from shaxixiang, up the yangtze river to zhongdian, then to deqin and the mingyong glacier, and back down the mekong river, over the mountains to shaxi, then the last leg to dali.

check this space to see how that goes!